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LOCATION:
1629 San Pablo Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94702

STORE HOURS:
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Friday – Saturday
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Sunday
10am – 3pm

After Four Decades, Paper Plus Says Goodbye

Paper plus staff and owner

In the mid-1980s, Berkeley local entrepreneur Philip Schurman founded “Papyrus First Class Seconds,” now the Paper Plus store we know and love.

When the Papyrus inventory became more difficult to obtain, Philip knew it was time to change inventory, yet he still sought to bring joy, laughter and the spirit of celebration to the Berkeley area.

It started with a single balloon

Michele and Philip Schurman“We used to pass a balloon out to children whose parents were waiting to be rung up,” says Michele, Philip’s wife.

The store soon grew to encompass other categories: office supplies, cooking supplies, licensed plates and napkins, calendars and specialty items. Eventually, Paper Plus established its reputation among Berkeley residents as the go-to place for all things balloons and party goods.

The years brought many challenges, changes and warm moments, both for the Schurmans and the community.

By 1995, they had expanded to five stores and Michele began managing full-time.

The five stores were soon consolidated into one large store, Paper Plus, which many local residents remember from childhood.

In 1997, the building was sold. Philip made arrangements with the owner of the space next door (today’s Paper Plus location) so that they could move in without ever closing down the business. It still took nearly four months before all merchandise was completely transferred and the register could be moved to the new location.

A world of wonder

A place of balloons and pretty papers, party favors and specialty items. It was fun to see kids enjoy the sticker wall and come back years later with their own kids, stocking up for birthday parties, anniversaries, holiday bashes and gender reveals.

Michele remembers those occasions fondly and became invested in them. She’d laugh with mothers while helping them fill pink or blue balloons with confetti, in awe of the privilege of getting to know the baby’s gender before the rest of the family. She’d listen with empathy while helping stressed, sad family members choose arrangements for beloved sick family members or napkins for funeral after-parties.

“Coming out parties. AA sobriety celebrations. Life celebrations. Accomplishments and struggles. I got to be part of it all,” Schurman smiles.

Through thick and thin

Flash flood before Christmas

In the early 2000s, they proudly served the community through a flash flood that sent a three-foot wall of water through the store the Sunday before Christmas. That flood destroyed most of their merchandise at the worst possible time. To this day, Paper Plus makes sure storm drains stay clean, raking leaves before any rain to ensure the store doesn’t flood again.

Economic downturns

They continued to bring smiles and laughter through two economic downturns, one pandemic and shifting city streets.

Fun memories

They hosted Shaquille O’Neal and Wanda Sykes. Shaq bent his massive body through the door frame and ducked under the beams, smiling and joking as he took a break from filming an AMEX commercial down the block to load up his arms with calendars, cartoon character erasers and balloon arrangements. “He was very kind and even bought a Peruvian sweater for one of our young customers,” Michele remembers.

Perseverance

They retained their employees at a time when other retail stores were struggling to cover their floors. Many employees remember Michele as warmly as many community members do, and some have remained with the company for decades.

The last ballon

Paper plus exteriorSeveral deaths in the family have left Michele with a second, unrelated family business to manage, requiring frequent travel to San Francisco and bringing a host of new responsibilities. Philip’s schedule is full with his successful online ceramic business. The Schurmans can’t be in two places at once, plus the current brick-and-mortar business model has been impacted significantly by Amazon, thus a closure became their only option.

“It’s truly been a pleasure to serve the community of Berkeley as a unique and eclectic store,” says Michele, who hopes people will remember Paper Plus as a fun, friendly environment where community members could get supplies, help and advice for their various holiday and party needs.

 

Seasoned Wisdom for aspiring local business owners

Michele offers the community a last bit of advice, this time for aspiring business owners rather than party hosts.

“When you’re just starting out,” says Michele, “you can succeed if you can offer a product that has a fairly broad appeal, while doing it better than anyone else. But start slow. A good long-term business is built slowly: one customer at a time.”

Paper Plus will remain open through June 2024

Liquidation sales will be announced monthly until the final big goodbye. Paper Plus will also be announcing its new January 2024 hours soon.

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